I have the pleasure of teaching the Year 8 Extension English class. While they aren’t all truly truly talented English students, they are enthusiastic and willing learners that brighten up my day.
This term we have been studying poetry, particularly Australian protest poetry from the likes of Oodergeroo and Paul Kelly & Kev Carmody. They embraced every poem, pondered every concern and hope, and were perceptive beyond their years with their analysis. Their sympathy of, and empathy for, those that are marginalised in society makes me proud and hopeful for the future.
Last week we worked at creating their protest projects. Moving between their classroom and the computer lab next door the students set about writing their own protest poem/s and making a movie out of one of the poems we studied.
Their poems were great. They protested about a myriad of issues and topics including the media, advertising, treatment of the disabled and refugees, destruction of the environment, whaling and even protest poems as homework. They used a variety of techniques to convey their ideas and experimented with form and structure by mimicking the structures of the poems we had studied.. Finally, they performed them for the class and fhey spoke with passion and flair.
And how were their movies? Pretty impressive. They reflected their understanding of both the poem and the issue through their choice of images, music, colour, font etc. The result was some pretty impressive social commentary.
To say I was proud of them would be an understatement. They cheered and praised each others’ work, discussed the importance of the chosen issues and expressed their love of poetry.
This is what we go into teaching for – to pass on our own love of learning and to help guide the future in a positive way. My Year 8 class symbolise the wonderful power of embracing every opportunity to build skills and understanding. I know I started the weekend with the warm glow that comes from a successful unit and lesson and I am pretty sure many of them did too.
I will ask their permission to share some of their poetry and films with you. As well, I have entered their poems in the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Competition and will upload them to the school’s website.
Hopefully their concerns will resonate with others and encourage a change in the way we treat others in our society. As Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody said, “From little things, big things grow”.
When was the last time you felt that way with one of your classes? Was it from how they embraced the topic, in what they created or in how you taught it? I would love to hear of your own experiences, if you are willing to share.